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Arts: Siamese Wins

Hawai’i Opera Theatre changes pace with its summer season, featuring The King and I.


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photo: courtesy of Hawai‘i Opera Theatre

You’ve certainly heard the songs “Getting to Know You,” and “Shall We Dance?,” but if you haven’t seen the much-beloved musical for which they were written, now is your chance, as Hawai‘i Opera Theatre (HOT) stages Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.

Director Martin Rabbett has the benefit of Broadway experience, including the acclaimed revival of My Fair Lady. Rabbett lives on O‘ahu and says he was thrilled to get to direct here.

Richard Chamberlain will star as the King of Siam (today known as Thailand). “Initially it was going to be an all-Asian cast,” Rabbett explains. “Cary Tagawa really wanted to do it, but he got another opportunity. I checked with all the other big Asian names, Chow Yun Fat, Ken Watanabe, but it was so late that it was hard for timing. You need to sell tickets, and names sell. It’s the practicality of the business.”

Jan Maxwell, an accomplished Broadway and television performer, stars opposite Chamberlain. Rabbett says HOT deserves credit for doing something different to expand its audience. “This is more like a play with music; it’s very different from doing an opera.” Even American Idol’s Jordan Segundo makes an appearance.

Rabbett says that audiences tend to love The King and I, because “the music is so melodic and it’s a great romance. It’s all about heart. That’s what we all want in our lives.”

The King & I will be at Blaisdell Concert Hall July 21 and 28, with matinees on July 23 and 30, a children’s matinee on July 29 and a military/group night on July 22. For tickets, call 596-7858.
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